Biodiesel burns much cleaner than petroleum diesel

Bus powered by biodiesel

Biodiesal Powered Bus

Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory (public domain)

Biodiesel is nontoxic and biodegradable. Compared to petroleum diesel fuel, which is refined from crude oil, biodiesel produces fewer air pollutants such as particulates, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrocarbons, and air toxics. Biodiesel does slightly increase emissions of nitrogen oxides.

Biodiesel use may reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Using a gallon of biodiesel produced in the United States does not produce the CO2 emissions that result from burning about a gallon of petroleum diesel. Biodiesel may be considered carbon-neutral because the plants used to make biodiesel, such as soybeans and palm oil trees, absorb CO2 as they grow. The absorption of CO2 offsets the CO2 produced while making and using biodiesel. Most of the biodiesel produced in the United States is made from soybean oil. Some biodiesel is also produced from used oils or fats, including recycled restaurant grease.

In some parts of the world, large areas of natural vegetation and forests have been cleared and burned to grow soybeans and palm oil trees to make biodiesel. The negative environmental impacts of land clearing may be greater than any potential benefits of using biodiesel produced from soybeans and palm oil trees.